Ecoholic: Q&A with Franz Hartmann - NOW

May 16, 2013
Adria Vasil, Ecoholic, NOW Magazine

Q & A: Franz Hartmann
Toronto Environmental Alliance executive director

Toronto Environmental Alliance celebrates its 25th birthday this month, two and a half decades advocating for a green, healthy and fair city. The org’s Franz Hartmann looks at the high points and low.

Do you go to sleep at night dreaming of a greener mayor?

I dream of more and more Torontonians calling on council to be green. Our membership has shot up from 5,000 in 2010 to over 37,000 in 2013. We’re going to create a greener city for all when good environmental policy is [seen as] non-partisan. Is your agenda stalling under the current administration? We have been treading water, but we haven’t slid backwards very far. The first day Ford was mayor he said Transit City was dead, and a year and three months later it was back because TEA talked about the importance of LRT lines.

Besides the transit victory, what has been TEA’s biggest achievement?

In 2002 we succeeded in getting green bins rolled out. TEA played a key role during the Adams Mine debate in collaboration with groups in the north that would potentially have received our garbage. TEA’s approach was “Listen, we could reduce the garbage that goes to landfill and greenhouse emissions by getting green bins.” The bin transformed our relationship with the environment.

At around 50 per cent waste diversion now, how are we going to get to zero waste?

Two-thirds of the average garbage bin could be diverted. The reason it’s not is that people don’t know what goes where any more. The city hasn’t invested in public education. The disposal lobby is all over City Hall trying to convince councillors that we should start talking about other ways of disposing of our garbage.

Is incineration the next big battle, then?

We’ve noticed that lobbyists for incineration companies are all over the place. Our response is that before we have any more discussion of incineration and diversion technology, let’s use the diversion system properly.

Biggest disappointment?

We’ve been advocating extended producer responsibility – the idea that the producers of packaging waste and products that end up in landfill should be responsible for paying the waste management costs. We came close to seeing action in 2009 at the provincial level, but it fizzled. Right now, only 38 per cent of costs for the blue box are paid for by companies.

Most pressing battle emerging?

Transit. Fairies aren’t going to build it when we’re sleeping. It’s got to be paid for by people who live here. The next step is creating an economy in Toronto where more jobs provide services and goods that improve our relationship with nature, [like] building more transit, more energy retrofits and helping companies releasing [toxins] to find alternatives.

Our future depends on being resilient in the face of climate change. How will Toronto fare?

By 2040, when TEA is 52 years old, it’s going to be super-hot; there will be more than 60 days in the summer when temperatures will be blistering. Our electricity system and buildings aren’t ready. The good news is that preparing for this requires actions that reduce greenhouse emissions and promote green economic activity.


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